Reform of the House of Lords
Cambridge 2000 memos
The composition of the reformed House of Lords should be
determined by the following rules.
The initial composition consists of most of the current peers.
This is to provide
some continuity with the existing system.
The term of office is for life. This is so that there is
less interference from the (stronger) House of Commons and
from the (even stronger) Government of the day.
There is a (fixed) maximum number of members (e.g. 700),
subject to rounding (see below). New members are added
after every UK General Election, to bring the total
membership up to the notional maximum.
No new members are added to replace members who die or
retire in between General Elections.
Each party participating in the General Election to the
House of Commons submits a list of candidates for the new
House before the election. No person on any list can
also run for election to the House of Commons (at the same
In each constituency the ballot for the new House consists
simply of a list of parties, and these are the same as the
parties listed on the ballot for that constituency for the
House of Commons. Each voter chooses one party from the list.
(An alternative is to just use one ballot for both elections.
Thus the party selected on an individualís ballot is the same
for both seats.) This is to make the system simple and
cheap to run.
The number of new seats awarded to a specific party is its
proportion of votes across the entire UK multiplied by the
number of members being notionally added to the new House,
rounded to the nearest whole number. (So, for example, if
100 members were notionally being added, the threshold for
electing a single member would be 0.5% of the overall vote.)
The persons elected for a particular party are chosen in order
from the pre-election list (nobody being allowed to drop out
in favour of someone further down the list). This is pure
These rules have the following advantages.
The new House is subject to political choice only in
determining its composition, a member is there for life,
so in principle there is no further political interference.
A member could change political allegiance after election.
In fact, the party system in the new House could be
completely abolished if desired.
The overall composition is roughly in proportion to the
long-term popularity of the various parties. Particular
elections only affect the proportion of new members added.
This makes the new House stable politically.
There is no special role for the Government of the day,
other parties choose their own members to the new House.
There is minimal cost in determining the composition of
the new House.
The electorate can choose to vote tactically in the
election to the House of Commons yet vote for the party
they really support in the election for the new House.
More people might vote in those constituencies where
the election to the House of Commons is a foregone conclusion.
(One way to save money and make the voting system even simpler,
but losing this advantage, is to just use one ballot for
In addition, election to the House of Commons could
perfectly happily remain as now (i.e. first past the post),
it is election to the new House which is based on
proportional representation. Finally, the legislative
relationship between the House of Commons and the new
House could remain the same, or there could be some
alterations to make the new House more powerful.
Cambridge 2000 memos